In the past with students glued to their phones rather than paying attention in class, teachers wondered if they could teach better using a social network. Social media may be useful, but the belief that everyone is using it sometimes lead to further exclusion. MySpace (yes, it still exists) Snapchat, Tumblr, Reddit, DeviantArt, Pinterest even LinkedIn are chosen by some students rather than Facebook and Twitter, because of the different offerings and levels of complexity. The recent switch to distance learning for students has revealed the weakness of attempts to learn completely on-line.
Mimi Ito traced what teenagers and young adults did on social networking sites. Most of it was everyday social transactions, sharing entertaining moments, and self publicity. A few used sites to explore and gain new knowledge. She also noted that teenagers feel weird having adults on the social networking sites.
Students need instruction on how to avoid pitfalls of using social media. It is the world where success is measured quantitatively, number of likes and hits – with actual impact remaining unknown. A easy and harmful way to to increase notoriety is by spreading lies and rumors. Teachers need to explain the consequences of this. There have been students who entered the court system due to this kind of harassment. Students don’t seem to get away with the false rumor tactics that politicians pull.
It’s not particularly wise to have students complete assignments on social networking sites, unless they are set up for education. Instead, they need to know how to use the sites. Students needing resources must determine which kind of sites best fit their goals. With the use of conferencing software, classes can even have “show and tell” times when describe what they have learned. However, controlling the content shown to the virtual classroom, so that it is appropriate, requires monitoring that is often more subtle than in an actual classroom. Violations are harder to perceive and cannot be instantly reprimanded.
Social networking, even on-line, is still a social activity. This requires skills in relating to others and an ethical sense of behavior. With so much of life shifting to this mode, students need help in practicing virtual relationship skills–setting expectations and limits, giving encouragement and watching out for others when on-line.